Growing Apples

It includes advice about planting, harvesting, and soil recommendations for growing apples. There are also tips for caring for and pruning apple trees. This is a guide about growing apples.
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April 25, 2009 Flag
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Planning Tips:

Select quality, bare-root, dormant trees that are at least 1 to 2 years old and cultivated for your specific zone. Disease resistant varieties are available that will minimize common problems such as apple scab. Avoid buying whatever is available at local discount garden centers. These trees are unusually common commercial cultivars selected for their ability to stand up to shipping, and may not be suited to local growing conditions. Dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties will bear 1 to 2 bushels per of fruit per year in 3 to 4 years, while standard varieties will start to bear fruit in 4 to 8 years, producing 4 to 5 bushels per year. Apple trees do not self fertilize and need at least one other variety in bloom at the same time in order to produce fruit.
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Site Preparation:

Apple trees need full sun and moderately rich soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 and good air circulation. Avoid low-lying areas where water tends to stand after it rains or where frost pockets develop. Do not plant new trees where apple trees grew previously. Ideally, the soil should be prepared a season in advance by removing any perennial weeds and planting a cover crop like sweet clover or buckwheat over the planting area.

Planting:

Spring planting is recommended in central and northern zones and fall planting is best in areas where winter weather is mild. Trees should be spaced 20 to 25 ft. apart (dwarf varieties 15 to 20 ft. apart). Trees should be watered thoroughly during and after planting and mulched with 8 to 10 inches of organic material after planting, keeping the 3 to 5 inch area directly around the base of the trunk bare.
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Care & Maintenance:

Young trees should receive between 1 to 2 inches of water per week throughout the growing season and into fall until the ground freezes to ensure they establish good roots. Start to train trees in a central leader (one main trunk with many side branches) in the first year. Prune them annually in the early spring while still dormant and check them in the spring and fall for fruit pests and disease.

Harvesting & Storage:

Apples can be harvested from mid-summer to late fall depending on the variety and growing zone. To harvest fruit, avoid removing the stem by cupping the apple in your hand and tilting it upward while twisting to separate the spur from the branch. Apples keep best long-term when stored at 80 to 90% humidity at temperatures of 32 to 40F (slightly colder than a refrigerator). Store them away from root vegetables-they release ethylene gas which makes root crops taste bitter and reduces their storage life.
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April 26, 20090 found this helpful

We really appreciate your article! We live in the Seattle/Tacoma of Washington State & as you probably know, Western, WA has much less sunshine & cooler summer weather that Eastern, WA. Can you tell me if I can grow Granny Smith apples? Also, what other apples are kind of tart (like Grannies only not quite as tart). How about Braeburns? Are they easy to grow? I'm looking for something shade tolerant, we have wet soil & also need something bug resistant. Thank you!

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June 4, 2012 Flag
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It's June and that means the apple trees are fruiting. To improve the quality of fruit this season and increase your flowering next season, now is the time to thin the apple tree. Experts recommend waiting for June Drop, when the smaller immature fruit fall off to make room. This will make them very easy to remove by hand or by a careful shake.

As you work way up each branch, look at the clusters of budding fruit. Usually one apple will stick out as the largest. Remove the smaller apples around it, leaving just one or two. Also, look for any diseased or insect eaten apples and remove them right away.

To make the job a little easier, give each branch a little shake before thinning. You will be surprised how many fall off easily. Don't shake the branch too hard though, you wouldn't want to bruise the fruit you are trying to keep.

The two of us were able to thin the entire tree in about an hour, one on a ladder and the other on the ground. We also took the time to inspect any health or insect issues with the tree. We are looking forward to a great apple harvest this year.

By Jess from Hillsboro, OR

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August 24, 20150 found this helpful

I believe you've made a small error and meant to say - 'pollinate' in this sentence; "Apple trees do not self fertilize..."

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November 10, 2015 Flag
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After a few hours of high winds in NE Pennsylvania, our apple trees harvested themselves this year!

apples on ground beneath the tree

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July 26, 2012 Flag
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My mom put a banana peel, water, and something else in a plastic jug with a hole cut out of the top to prevent worms and lines in the apples. Does anyone know what the ingredients are? I can not remember.

By jk

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July 30, 20120 found this helpful
Best Answer

Found it. Mother batch can be split to several jugs. Combine 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup sugar, 1 cut up banana peel, half gallon of water in a milk jug with large hole towards topside. Leave handle so you can tie it to apple tree branch. Codling moths are what produces the apple worms.

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July 30, 20120 found this helpful

No, you may just have to use a type of pesticide.

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July 30, 20120 found this helpful

Pretty sure it's vinegar. It worked great. I would google to find out.

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August 7, 2007 Flag
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The fruit on my apple tree keeps cracking, why? The soil medium is predominantly clay and I do try to get some compost around the tree. The area the tree stands is almost a water table when it rains hard. I'm at my wits end trying to find a reason for the problem.

I have noted this year that some fruit have small black spots on them. The leaves on the tree are curling also. I can if you wish take digital images and forward them if that would help in trying to diagnose the problems. A similar thing is occurring to my pear tree which is about 20 feet away from the apple tree and the pear was planted about 4 years ago. Hope you can help.

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August 9, 20070 found this helpful

I took a minute to look this info up for you. It sounds like the most likely cause is the tree getting too much water too fast, at a time when the fruit can absorb the extra water and basically burst. Here's what I found ...

I found this on http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/treefruit/422-023/422-023.html :

Fruit cracking. There are two types of fruit cracking. Physiological Cracking often occurs on 'Stayman' when a high percentage of fruit may split or crack, starting in July. This type of cracking is probably related to the water status in the tree and fruit, but there is no way to suppress cracking to acceptable levels. "Maturity Cracking" develops on varieties such as 'Golden Delicious' and 'Gala', often at the stem end, as the apples become mature. This type of cracking can be minimized by harvesting fruit as the first fruits start to crack.

And, this comes from http://postharvest.tfrec.wsu.edu/marketdiseases/skincrack.html :

Occurrence and Importance

Fruit cracking occurs most frequently on Stayman, Wealthy, and York Imperial apples. The condition occurs so frequently and so seriously on the Stayman that it is often termed "Stayman cracking." Rain cracking develops after periods of cloudy, rainy weather, when the rates of evaporation and transpiration are very low. Dumping and floating apples in water before packing them may produce some cracking in thin-skinned varieties or in fruits with numerous open lenticels.

Symptoms

On Wealthy and Stayman apples, cracking occurs chiefly on the cheek of the fruits in the form of irregular breaks in the skin and underlying flesh. The breaks vary from almost invisible short slits to cracks 1/2 inch or more deep that may extend almost completely around the apple. Late in the growing season, cracks may originate near the stem and extend out over the cheek in more or less straight lines towards the calyx. Cracks around the calyx basin are rare. The exposed flesh gradually becomes discolored and decay follows, often while the fruits are on the trees.

In York skin crack, the cracks are small and tend to run in a sidewise direction on the cheek of the fruits. The cracks may make a wavy line. They vary from being barely discernible to being open as much as 1/16 inch. In the late stages of York skin crack, the cracks are very numerous and are likely to be accompanied by wilting of the fruits.

Cracking may also occur in Golden Delicious apples from the absorption of rain water caught in the stem cavity of fully matured fruits. The cracks generally are small, but individual ones may exceed 1 inch in length and be up to 1/4 inch deep. They are oriented concentrically around the stem and are usually associated with russeting of the stem cavity. Cracking of Golden Delicious apples may also occur when immersion dumpers are used in the packing house.

Causal factors

Fruit cracking is more prevalent in the humid growing regions than in irrigated districts. Cracking occurs most frequently during periods of high humidity following rains. Absorption of rain water through the skin, coupled with the uptake of water from the roots, results in rapid enlargement of the fleshy cells. The internal pressure from the enlarged cells of the fruits creates a strain that cracks the skin. Differences in the thickness and composition of the cuticular layer of the fruits account for varietal differences in susceptibility to cracking. Russet is commonly associated with cracking in susceptible varieties.

York skin crack seems to occur on fruits grown on trees of comparatively low vitality or affected by drought during the growing season. It appears to be worse on light-crop trees than on those bearing heavy crops and on yellow and green parts of the fruits rather than on the red part.

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August 10, 20070 found this helpful

I would use a posthole digger and drill several holes around the tree, then fill up the holes with 2" rocks. This would provide drainage. Make sure that you are applying the compost only out at the drip line, the area straight down from the outermost branches, a zone a couple of feet wide all around. None should go near the trunk. You can apply raw manures and not get the burning effect because it doesn't touch any plant tissue. Hope something helps. BTW, Peach Leaf Curl is a disease that affects several fruit species, you might put that name into your web browser and see if treating for that helps.

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